Christmas in the Left-wing Style


Frank Key recalls a cosy memory of a 1980s Christmas on the political hard Left…

1983 was, for me, a memorable year for Christmas crackers. I was young, newly-married, and an earnest and idealistic leftie. Being the armchair revolutionary type, I had not actually joined any of the various socialist or communist groupuscules then, as now, available, but I could thump my fist on the pub table while denouncing Thatcher with practised ease. I knew the SWP slogan “Neither Washington nor Moscow but International Socialism”, but, like every SWP member I ever met, I had a soft spot for the Soviet Bloc. It was abundantly clear to me, even while I lapped up American books and films and music, that the United States was indeed the Great Satan, its leaders devoting their every waking hour to evil schemes designed to… well, to be evil. Every word written by Noam Chomsky was gospel truth. Cuba was lovely. And so on.

It was in such a frame of mind that my then wife and I travelled up to Manchester to spend Christmas with my sister-in-law and her husband, equally devout lefties. Thatcher was in her post-Falklands pomp, and the great issue of the day was the siting of American cruise missiles in England’s green and pleasant home counties. Thus it was obviously the right-on thing to do to buy our Christmas crackers from CND. And what a treat they turned out to be.

There we were, sat around the table ready to eat our vegetarian Christmas nut cutlet and piles of sprouts and potatoes, and we clinked our glasses of wine (definitely neither South African nor Chilean) and pulled our crackers. Out popped the paper hats and plastic baubles. But instead of the customary inane and groanworthy jokes, we got bits of paper upon which were written salient and sobering facts about nuclear warfare. “The combined might of the US nuclear arsenal is equivalent to 20 million Hiroshimas”, and similar.

So instead of the cheer brought by terrible puns and infantile humour, we experienced the greater cheer brought by smug righteousness and an infantile world-view. Happy days!

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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

2 thoughts on “Christmas in the Left-wing Style

    December 29, 2014 at 12:00

    Lovely tale. I have become fascinated by the mindset of the dogmatic leftist, particularly the ones who keep up the good fight past the obligatory iconoclastic years of youth. They seem gripped by a general inchoate ressentiment that will attach itself to any available cause du jour that allows them to demonstrate their moral superiority and heightened compassion. The typical specimen will sit quietly and awkwardly at a dinner party waiting for a pause in the discussion about films or children’s schools or whatever to divert to the latest Israeli atrocity in Gaza, recounted with a fixed eye that dares anyone to show his/her “outrage” is less than his. Slip out to the loo and you come back to find he has shifted to the plight of African refugees or ice levels in the Arctic. On and on he goes, weaving a confusing web of disparate injustice and oppression that you just know he will connect over brandy by showing how the roads to them all lead back to Washington D.C.

  2. Worm
    December 29, 2014 at 12:22

    these crackers would probably be worth a fortune to collectors now. I wonder if UKIP do their own version?

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